Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly Have Tall Task Ahead With D-backs
It’s a difficult spot to be in. Replacing a franchise icon and perennial MVP contender is never easy, either from an on-field production or a popularity standpoint.
Weaver, 25, and Kelly, 24, are making the best of it. Rather than see Goldschmidt’s pedigree as added pressure, the new D-backs are choosing to see it as a honor.
“It’s in the back of your mind, but it’s cool to be traded for a guy like that,” Weaver said earlier this month during a road series in San Diego. “When you look down later in your career and it’s all said and done and you think about that move and he’s doing great things and he’s on track for a great career, it’s a cool tidbit.”
Weaver, a righthanded starter, and Kelly, a catcher, were acquired with infield prospect Andy Young and a competitve balance round B draft pick from the Cardinals in exchange for Goldschmidt last December.
Goldschmidt, fresh off back-to-back top-10 MVP finishes, has already signed a five-year extension with the Cardinals and has seven home runs through 17 games with his new team.
Weaver has settled in as the D-backs' No. 4 starter. Kelly has so far received the bulk of the starts at catcher with Alex Avila on the injured list.
Both were Top 100 prospects coming up the minors and are at an age where their best years should be ahead of them. That said, there is considerable work ahead to make the trade eventually look favorable for the D-backs.
Here is every trade in the wild-card era (1995-present) involving a position player who either won an MVP award within the previous three years of the trade OR who finished top-10 in MVP voting in two of the three seasons prior to the trade. Goldschmidt meets the latter criteria.
The trades involving Giancarlo Stanton (2017 NL MVP, 2017 trade) and Manny Machado (2015-16 top-10 MVP finishes, 2018 trade) and Josh Donaldson’s most recent trade (2015 AL MVP, 2018 trade) are not included because not enough time has passed for the returns to build careers yet.
Players are measured by their post-trade career wins above replacement (WAR), as estimated by Baseball-Reference. All WAR totals are through April 14.
|Marlins receive||Post-Trade WAR||Dodgers receive||Post-Trade WAR|
|Mike Piazza||27.6||Gary Sheffield||40.1|
|Todd Zeile||7.8||Charles Johnson||13.7|
|Total: 35.4||Total: 48.0|
|Mets receive||Post-Trade WAR||Marlins receive||Post-Trade WAR|
|Mike Piazza||27.7||Preston Wilson||6.3|
|Total: 21.4||Total: 6.4|
Nov. 2, 1999: Rangers trade OF Juan Gonzalez, C Gregg Zaun and RHP Danny Patterson to Tigers to OF Gabe Kapler, OF Frank Catalanatto, RHP Francisco Cordero, C Bill Haselman, LHP Justin Thompson and LHP Alan Webb.
|Tigers receive||Post-Trade WAR||Rangers receive||Post-Trade WAR|
|Juan Gonzalez||8.6||Gabe Kapler||7.0|
|Gregg Zaun||12.8||Frank Catalanatto||13.6|
|Danny Patterson||2.4||Francisco Cordero||16.4|
|Total: 23.8||Total: 38.3|
|Reds receive||Post-Trade WAR||Mariners receive||Post-Trade WAR|
|Ken Griffey Jr.||13.1||Mike Cameron||35.2|
|Total: 13.1||Total: 42.2|
Dec. 11, 2001: Indians trade 2B Roberto Alomar, LHP Mike Bacsik and 1B/OF Danny Peoples to Mets for OF Matt Lawton, OF Alex Escobar, RHP Jerrod Riggan and players to be named later (1B/3B Earl Snyder and LHP Billy Traber)
|Mets receive||Post-Trade WAR||Indians receive||Post-Trade WAR|
|Roberto Alomar||-0.2||Matt Lawton||3.5|
|Mike Bacsik||-0.1||Alex Escobar||2.0|
|Danny Peoples||N/A||Jerrod Riggan||-0.6|
|Total: -0.3||Total: 4.0|
|Yankees receive||Post-Trade WAR||Rangers receive||Post-Trade WAR|
|Alex Rodriguez||54.2||Alfonso Soriano||18.6|
|Total: 54.2||Total: 19.6|
|Tigers receive||Post-Trade WAR||Yankees receive||Post-Trade WAR|
|Gary Sheffield||3.1||Anthony Claggett||-0.3|
|Total: 3.1||Total: -0.4|
Dec. 4, 2007: Marlins trade 3B Miguel Cabrera and LHP Dontrelle Willis to Tigers for OF Cameron Maybin, LHP Andrew Miller, RHP Burke Badenhop, C Mike Rabelo, RHP Frankie De La Cruz and RHP Dallas Trahern
|Tigers receive||Post-Trade WAR||Marlins receive||Post-Trade WAR|
|Miguel Cabrera||51.3||Cameron Maybin||13.8|
|Dontrelle Willis||-1.8||Andrew Miller||9.2|
|Frankie De La Cruz||-0.7|
|Total: 43.8||Total: 26.3|
|Rangers receive||Post-Trade WAR||Tigers receive||Post-Trade WAR|
|Prince Fielder||0.2||Ian Kinsler||22.1|
|Total: 0.2||Total: 22.1|
|Blue Jays receive||Post-Trade WAR||Athletics receive||Post-Trade WAR|
|Josh Donaldson||22.8||Brett Lawrie||3.3|
|Total: 22.8||Total: 8.1|
In five of the 10 instances an MVP contender was traded, the team trading the player away came out on the winning end of the deal from a WAR perspective. There are caveats, however.
Most of those successes came in 2001 or earlier. In four of the last five deals involving such players, the team trading away the MVP contender came out on the losing end. The only success among those deals is the Tigers trading Prince Fielder to the Rangers in 2013 for Ian Kinsler, who was a fellow multiple-time All-Star in his 30s. Fielder's career was also cut short by injuries after the trade.
It's also incumbent on the team to keep the top players they receive in return, something not all of them did.
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From a pure, on-the-field production standpoint, getting an equal or better return back for an MVP contender is a 50-50 proposition based on the history of such trades in the wild-card era.
For the D-backs to join the positive outcome group, Weaver and Kelly are going to have to be a big part of it.
The opportunity is there. Weaver bounced between the rotation, the bullpen and Triple-A with St. Louis while Kelly was blocked by Yadier Molina behind the plate and spent the last three seasons going up and down between Triple-A and the majors. Now in Arizona, the path is clear for both of them to have consistent roles in the majors.
"It kind of wears on you a little bit because you get up to the big leagues and you’re like, 'I want to be here' and then you go down," Kelly said. "That’s part of it, that’s part of the journey and I’m ready for my opportunity now to go out and play. This is a great team and a great environment to be a part of."
Weaver and Kelly are cognizant they will be tied to Goldschmidt the rest of their careers. They also know trying to replicate his production would be a Herculean task and can't be their individual focus.
For both of them, the goal is just to be the best players they can be.
"I guess more than anything it's is just coming in here and being myself and contributing in a way that he did," Weaver said, "but paving my own path."